Jul/Aug 2012 Poetry

Tyto Alba

by Alexandra Smyth

Tyto Alba

Tuesday morning my mother woke up to a murder of crows having a panic attack on the power lines that demarcate our front yard. She stepped out on to the porch, watching the crows fly back and forth, a neurotic symphony in darkness. The sun was just over the treetops when she finally realized the source of their anxiety. A barn owl sat on the hood of her champagne 1997 Ford Taurus. It turned its head imperceptibly until its eyes met her. The pupils overtook the iris. The eyes imperceptible black glass buttons. A thread of gaze connected them for a moment. My mother shuddered. A crow screeched. The owl took flight, up over the house, its wings spread as wide as my father's arms. The crows followed, in restless pursuit.

When I was sixteen I used to stay out too late on Saturday nights, making out with my Catholic school boyfriend in the backseat of my car. After dropping him off at his parents' house, I liked taking back roads to get to my own. Pulling onto Paul Spring Parkway one evening, I dropped my speed, a glint of fox eye night vision bumping off my headlights. It wasn't until after I went away to college that the city installed street lights on that section of the road. When I came to the stop sign at the intersection of Paul Spring Parkway and New Orleans Street, an owl swooped down and stood in the crosswalk. My headlights illuminated its eerily white face. It carried something in its round beak, a field mouse or a vole perhaps, too small for me to determine its genus and species. It tilted its head back and swallowed the creature in one elegant gulp. It tapped its left talon on the asphalt, then it was gone.


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